Dalton McGuinty began his career as Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa in 1951, and retired as a Full Professor in 1980. Like a number of his contemporaries in the Department, he had been educated at St. Patrick’s College, before going on to graduate work at Colgate University and the University of Ottawa. His approach to literary studies had been very much influenced by the gifted and charismatic teacher at St. Pat’s, Father Leo Cormican, whose assumptions about a liberal arts education derived ultimately from Cardinal Newman’s “idea of a university” and Arnoldian notions of a cultural tradition. While university education in general, and the study of English in particular, changed a great deal during his years as a professor, Dalton never lost sight of those informing principles governing his sense of the importance of the teaching vocation and the value of an education in the liberal arts.
Along with this formative experience went a strong sense of the importance of community service, which was reflected in his work both inside and outside the University. Within the University, he was a great supporter of those students who did not come from family backgrounds in which a university education could be taken for granted. He developed and administered a counseling service for students of the Faculty, and a service to guide those seeking post-graduate scholarships and fellowships. In the years before Canadian Literature Studies had become fashionable, he helped initiate courses in this field. He served as Co-Chair of the Department of English and the Chairman of various departmental committees, and he was an elected member of Faculty Council. His literally towering presence – he was by some margin the tallest faculty member in the Department – accompanied a gentle and kind nature that made him popular with both colleagues and students alike.
Outside the University, he was a well-known local public figure. He served as an elected trustee of the Ottawa Board of Education from 1972-1985 and was Vice Chairman of the Board for two years. As a trustee concerned mainly with matters pertaining to the Ontario Secondary School curriculum, he wrote and debated extensively on educational matters and was recognized throughout the province as an initiator of secondary school curriculum reform. He was a leading supporter of a movement to establish a regional homogeneous French-language School Board which valued a respect for religious rights.
After his retirement from the University of Ottawa, he continued to be active in the educational and political life of the community. This commitment to public service led him to seek and obtain the Liberal party nomination for the constituency of Ottawa South in the provincial election of 1987. He won this seat and served in the Liberal caucus at Queen’s Park under the premiership of David Peterson. He was still serving as the MPP for this riding, a seat subsequently held by his son Dalton McGuinty, at the time of his death in March 1990.
A devoted and proud family man and tireless worker in the public interest, Dalton McGuinty is remembered with great affection by all those at the University of Ottawa who knew him.
The Dr. Dalton J.P. McGuinty Sr. Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to students registered in the second or third year of the General Baccalaureate in Arts at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ottawa.
Testimonial presented by Professor Keith Wilson on September 25, 2010